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53-year-old Palestinian man killed by Israeli forces near border in West Bank

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According to Palestinian agency Wafa, the incident took place north of the occupied West Bank and the victim was identified as Nabil Ahmed Ghanem by the Palestinian health ministry.

The tension between Israel and Palestine was stoked once again on Sunday as a 53-year-old Palestinian man was killed by the Israeli forces near the border in Qalqilya city. According to Palestinian agency Wafa, the incident took place north of the occupied West Bank and the victim was identified as Nabil Ahmed Ghanem by the Palestinian health ministry. The victim belong to the village of northern West Bank city of Nablus and the shooting was described as a “field execution”, according to Reuters. It has caused a bit of uproar among the Palestinian community once again as Wafa reported that Ghanem was shot by the forces while trying to cross the separation border.

The Israeli forces have not taken the wall between the two regions down despite an order from the International Court of Justice and the shooting has added fuel to the controversy. The Israeli army spokesperson, however, maintained that the shooting took place because of possible vandalism.

In the last year, more than 60 Palestinians have lost their lives with a number of incidents taking place near the separation barriers. According to official data. around 165,000 Palestinians cross the border with special permits for work and calls for the walls to go down has been gaining momentum.

Meanwhile, the violence between the two sides continue as there were multiple clashes near the military checkpoint southwest of Tulkarm and five Palestinians were arrested. According to the report in Wafa, 13 Palestinians were also detained by the Israeli forces near the town of Bartaa, southwest of Jenin.

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Article source: Wion | Sayan Ghosh | New Delhi, India | Jun 19, 2022

2022-06-24 01:28:28.000000

Israel set for general election after collapse of weakened government

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Israel’s weakened coalition government has announced that it intends to dissolve the Knesset, setting the stage for the country’s fifth election in three years and a potential return to office for longtime prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A statement released by the office of the prime minister, Naftali Bennett, on Monday night said that “attempts to stabilise the coalition had been exhausted” and his fractious government, made up of eight ideologically disparate parties, will submit a bill next week to dissolve parliament.

If approved as expected, the legislation will force new elections and mean the foreign minister Yair Lapid takes over as caretaker leader as per an existing agreement.

In comments in a joint media conference after the unexpected announcement, Bennett said that dismantling the government “isn’t an easy moment”. “Over the past weeks, we did whatever we could to save this government, not for us, but for the benefit of the country,” he said.

“I held many talks and understood that if the Knesset did not dissolve within 10 days, Israel’s security would be severely harmed,” Bennett added, referring to the coalition’s inability to agree on the renewal of legislation relating to Jewish settlers in the West Bank before a deadline at the end of June.

Lapid, the incoming premier, praised Bennett as a friend and for the “responsibility he is showing today, for the fact that he is putting the country before his personal interests”.

Factions from Israel’s left, right, and for the first time, an independent Arab party, banded together a year ago as part of an ambitious coalition experiment in order to oust Netanyahu from power. The government has struggled to function, however, since losing its slim majority in April.

Monday’s decision was met in the Knesset’s corridors with surprise; Israeli media reported that neither the defence nor interior ministers were aware of the move in advance. It appears to be an effort to pre-empt the Netanyahu-led opposition, which had warned it would submit its own bill to dissolve parliament later this week.

Netanyahu said in a statement on Monday night that the coalition’s imminent collapse was “great news for millions of Israeli citizens” and that his conservative Likud party would seek to form a “wide, national government”.

Elections are expected in late October or November, after the conclusion of several major Jewish holidays. While Likud is leading in the polls, it is unlikely that the rightwing-religious bloc, nor the centre-left bloc led by Lapid, would win an outright majority.

Israel also held four inconclusive elections between 2019 and 2021 that were largely referendums about the corruption scandal-plagued Netanyahu’s ability to rule while on trial, in an unprecedented era of political gridlock.

Likud may now only be able to work with other parties if it promises to remove Netanyahu as leader.

The former prime minister denies wrongdoing. Three separate trials, into allegations that he sought preferential treatment for a telecom company, solicited favourable media coverage and received gifts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, are ongoing.

Bennett’s government can claim some successes during its short tenure: it formed the most diverse coalition in Israeli history; passed overdue budgets; guided Israel through the latter stages of the pandemic without ordering new lockdowns; and made amends with a judiciary much maligned by Netanyahu.

It has also largely dampened the tensions that last May led to a round of fighting between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group in control of the Gaza Strip, as well as ethnically charged violence on the streets of Israeli cities.

A year after ousting, Israel’s Netanyahu gets ready for a comeback

An agreement to focus on areas of common ground in government and avoid divisive issues such as the occupation of the Palestinian territories, however, proved too difficult in practice – the coalition’s architects spent much of their time dangling carrots and wielding sticks at wavering factions threatening to quit.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, capitalised on the coalition’s disunity by encouraging the opposition to vote against every government-proposed bill in a bid to further paralyse his rivals.

The government lost its majority in Israel’s 120-seat parliament two months ago when a member of Bennett’s hardline Yamina party announced her departure over what she described as compromises made by the prime minister to keep the coalition afloat.

Recent divisions over the renewal of a measure extending legal protections for Jewish settlers in the West Bank caused fresh friction, with some Arab members of the coalition refusing to back it. Nationalist party New Hope, also part of the coalition, threatened to exit the arrangement if the government could not get the settler legislation passed.

The government’s supporters had hoped it could cling on until the close of the Knesset’s summer session in five weeks’ time.

As it stands, the dissolution may derail a visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories by Joe Biden, the US president, scheduled for mid-July. On Monday night, Israeli media quoted the US ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, as saying that the president’s trip would take place as planned. Lapid is expected to host Biden during the state visit.

The new elections come as Israel deals with the aftermath of one of the deadliest waves of Palestinian terrorist attacks in years, clashes at Jerusalem’s holy sites, and an escalation in tensions with Iran.

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Article source: The Guardian | Naftali Bennett | 21 Jun 2022

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‘The land beyond the road is forbidden’: Israeli settler shepherds displace Palestinians

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There are 77 Israeli farms and shepherding outposts across the West Bank, part of an explosion in settlement growth in recent years

On stretches of Route 90, the Israeli-built road running down the length of the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank, the west side of the highway is full of straw-like grass despite the summer heat. To the east of the road, what can be eaten by sheep and goats is gone.

The difference is the only perceptible sign of the biggest strategic shift in the battle for control of Area C, the 60% of the West Bank under full Israeli control, in recent years: the emergence of Israeli settlers using shepherding as a tool for seizing the most land, with the least effort.

“We used to be able to take the sheep and goats all over the mountains and the valley,” said Mohammed, a 16-year-old herding a flock of 200 on the side of the road that is safe for Palestinians. “Now the road is the border and beyond that is forbidden.”

“They come down from the mountain and take the water, take the land, but bring goats,” said Abu Fadi, 52, a Bedouin shepherd from Al-Auja, a village north of Jericho. “There’s not enough space any more and the price of food for the animals is going up. We are being pressured on both sides.”

About 450,000 Israelis have settled in what is now Area C of the West Bank since the occupation of the Palestinian territories began in 1967, some motivated by religious or nationalistic reasons, and others by the cheaper cost of living. Their presence is viewed by most of the international community as a major obstacle to lasting peace.

What was once seen as a pioneer lifestyle is now often very comfortable: some early settlements are now well established and wealthy, with security guards at the entrance and fences topped with cameras and barbed wire. The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) are on hand to enforce military law for Palestinians, and civilian law for settlers.

According to Dror Etkes, a leading expert on Israeli land policy over the Green Line and founder of the NGO Kerem Navot, during the last 10 years, the rightwing of the settler movement has been trying out something different, with great success.

A new Kerem Navot investigation has found that there are now 77 Israeli farms and shepherding outposts across the West Bank; 66 were established over the last decade, and 46 in the last five years, part of an explosion in settlement growth during the Trump administration. The area now controlled by shepherd settlers is around 60,000 acres – just under 7% of Area C.

As Ze’ev Hever, the secretary general of Amana, a settler organisation, put it at an online conference last year: “Construction takes up little ground, due to economic considerations of building development … The shepherd farms – over the last three years we have ventured into a large expanse – now cover an area almost twice as large as the built area of the settlements.”

Etkes spent three years interviewing Palestinian herders, observing changes over time in the grazing areas visited by Palestinians and settlers, and using aerial photographs to map out geographical features such as deep valleys and roads, which now often form the de facto boundaries of land appropriated by settler shepherds.

He also found that the settler herders are often helped with grants and allocations of pastureland issued directly by Israeli government offices and other publicly funded bodies.

“This is the most important change in the West Bank in decades. The settler enterprise used to be about building communities, and now often someone comes alone to start a farm, and maybe later brings his family, living like he’s in the Wild West,” Etkes said during the Guardian’s visit to several Palestinian and settler communities in the Jordan Valley last week.

Block of cement with warning

A block of cement with the inscription ‘Dangerous, firing zone’ near the Malachei Hashalom farm in the West Bank. Photograph: Quique Kierszenbaum/The Guardian

“They are initially very violent in pushing the Palestinians out, but once they’ve established dominance, they are usually less violent. They feel entitled to the land, like they don’t need numbers or the army to keep them safe.”

Violence related to control of land in the West Bank is on the rise, with 450 attacks by settlers against Palestinians, and 160 attacks by Palestinians against settlers, recorded by the UN in 2021.

The Bedouin hamlet of Ras al-Tin in the Jordan Valley is still reeling from a particularly vicious incident last week: around 20 shepherd settlers living on a nearby hilltop arrived in the village by car on Tuesday evening, accompanied by 10 IDF personnel.

According to other residents, the settlers entered a home and proceeded to beat the four members of a family with batons spiked with nails, while the IDF watched. Mustafa Ka’abanh and his sons Ahmad and Muhammad, in their 20s, were beaten while handcuffed, and the young men arrested.

50-year-old Hager, their mother, was so badly beaten, she was unconscious in hospital in Ramallah for several days. Mustafa was detained for four days after his release from hospital, and their two sons remain in custody at Ofer military prison.

The IDF said that soldiers had been dispatched to the scene to separate a physical altercation between Israeli civilians and Palestinians and had stones thrown at them by two villagers.

“The soldiers responded according to operational procedures, including firing warning shots until all of the suspects dispersed,” a spokesperson said. “Ahmad and Mohammed Ka’abanh were arrested under suspicion of assault of a 15 year old” and their detention was “extended by the military court of appeals for investigative purposes until Monday.”

“I heard the settlers came because they were angry about an incident involving a cow and this was revenge, but we had nothing to do with it,” said a close relative of the family, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals.

The attack marked the first time that settlers who established a nearby outpost over the last few years have entered Ras al-Tin itself. People living there are now deeply worried that the violence could escalate and that, like many others, they could be forced to leave their homes.

“There is no worse oppression in the world than not being safe in your own house,” the relative said. “It’s not about who can graze animals and where, not really. They want to get rid of us completely.”

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Article source: The Guardian |Bethan McKernan and Quique Kierszenbaum in the Jordan Valley| 20 Jun 2022

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Aid group anger as Israel convicts Palestinian World Vision worker of supporting terrorists

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Aid group anger as Israel convicts Palestinian World Vision worker of supporting terrorists

Beersheba: An Israeli court on Wednesday convicted a Palestinian aid worker who has been detained for six years on Israeli charges that he funnelled tens of millions of dollars in relief funds to the militant group Hamas.

The Beersheba District Court found Mohammed el-Halabi guilty of supporting a terrorist organisation but acquitted him of treason, judges reading out the verdict said. They set a sentencing hearing for July.

Halabi, head of Gaza operations for World Vision, an international Christian aid group, was arrested in June 2016, accused of siphoning off up to $US50 million ($71 million) to pay Hamas fighters, buy arms and fund the group’s activities.

Halabi has denied the charges and refused several plea deal offers. He has told Reuters the charges were “a set of lies” meant to target humanitarian work in Gaza.

World Vision Australia – which says it was funded by the federal government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to provide services in the region, disputes Israel’s claims, and says audits by DFAT, by World Vision internally, and by an independent company – found no evidence that money or supplies were diverted.

Hamas, which governs blockaded Gaza, is designated by Israel and the West as a terrorist organisation.

The full verdict was classified but the judges said their conviction centred on a confession by Halabi, which they said was “detailed, coherent, with signals of truth and particular details”. They said the confession matched details in other testimonies and evidence.

Sitting in a guarded court booth, Halabi received the verdict through a translator. His lawyer, Maher Hanna, has denied Halabi ever confessed and said he would appeal once the sentence is announced.

“I don’t know what the court is basing its claim on,” he told reporters. He said the judges’ summary had “nothing to do with the evidence that was presented in court.”

He said the state had failed to produce evidence on what projects Halabi was supposed to have diverted funds from, which governments had donated the money, or how the aid was transferred to Hamas.

“This case was never grounded in any reality. The allegation of $US50 million stolen alone is incompatible with the reality of a $22 million total budget,” World Vision Australia’s former chief executive Tim Costello and former colleague Conny Lenneberg wrote in an opinion piece for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

“Contrary to the Israeli government claims of respect for the rule of law, the conduct of this trial demonstrates a fundamental disregard for the core principles of a fair trial and the overarching political objective which is to strictly control humanitarian aid to Gaza.”

World Vision spokesperson Sharon Marshall said the organisation acknowledged the verdict “with disappointment” and said it would support any appeal because it believed Halabi was innocent.


International human rights organisations have criticised Halabi’s prolonged detention and trial. Human Rights Watch said the verdict “compounds a miscarriage of justice”.

On Tuesday, the head of the United Nations Human Rights Office in Palestine, James Heenan, also expressed concern.

Widespread use of secret evidence, reliance on closed proceedings and credible allegations of ill-treatment in detention “paint a picture of enormous pressure on Mr el-Halabi to confess in the absence of evidence,” Heenan said.

“This is a grave mistake and an injustice,” his father, Khalil el-Halabi, told Reuters. “My son is innocent.”

In a separate case running parallel to Halabi’s trial, Israel’s Corporation Authority (ICA), which oversees NGO activities, petitioned a Jerusalem court to dissolve World Vision in Israel, official documents obtained by Reuters showed.

The ICA declined a request for comment.

A 2021 review of the organisation by the Department of Non-Profit Associations and Charitable Companies determined there were “serious flaws” in World Vision’s activities that involved the transfer of funds to parties “known to be terror operatives”, though the report did not provide evidence or elaborate on whether by “terror operatives” it meant Halabi or others.

A judge is set to rule on whether to dissolve the organisation in Israel later this month.



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Article source: SMH
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